Wendy's Vacation Review: Iberostar Cozumel

This review was written by Wendy.

I spent 7 nights at the Iberostar Cozumel with my brother in the beginning of September, sandwiching luckily between Gustav and Ike. This is a perfectly nice hotel on a mediocre beach but nearest the best scuba diving reef I’ve seen. Skip to the end if you’re easily bored; stay with me if you want all the details. I have stayed at the Barcelo Beach and Dreams Tulum resorts in the Mayan Riviera and at the Barcelo Palace in Punta Cana for all-inclusive reference.

We booked through our local travel agent Anna at OK Travel, GoGoTours was the group. Flew American Airlines right into Coz, laying over in Miami. The second leg into Coz is on a little turboprop, but it was very smooth. Nice to land right in Coz and not have to deal with the Cancun madness and ferryboat ride. No problems with the flights or airport, van from Olympus Tours was there to bring us to the hotel. It’s about 20 m south of the airport, quite a ways from town. Check in was a breeze and our room was ready. We were in 8114, nearest the beach and the pool on the South side. It was quiet and clean, small as others have noted but perfectly acceptable. The closet does not give you a lot of room to spread out clothing, but how much stuff do you need? It’s not a fancy place. The minibar was full and the safe worked fine. Each room has a nice balcony and hammock out in front. We did find some tiny ants in the bathroom, but they didn’t seem to bite and were nothing more than a minor annoyance (and my Deet skin spray did not deter them at all).

The hotel is lovely, very jungly with trails weaving in and out of the lush foliage. There is no direct way to get anywhere and you must be prepared to walk a lot. The pool is clean and nice, the swim up bar was handy. There are plenty of chairs but never enough in the shade, and folks stake those out early. There are more chairs in the shade on the beach, though, so you aren’t out of luck if you miss one early. The beach is very nice, good clean sand and you can walk North quite a ways. The water entry is unusable due to coral rocks, so if you want to swim in the sea you must enter off the slippery dock stairs, under which there are a lot of fish all the time. If you like to wade around in the ocean, this is not the place for you… go north to the Occidental or Allegro… .their water entries looked great.

Food service was quite good. There are buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and with 7 nights you get 2 a la carte meals in the specialty restaurants. The breakfast buffet was great every day… .eggs and omelets, meats and potatoes, lots of things I didn’t recognize, lunchmeat for the europeans, lovely cajeta to spread on toast, plenty of fresh fruit and smoothies. You can’t go wrong with breakfast. Morning entertainment was provided by the many birds (mynahs?) who fly in to steal things from the tables… anything you leave is fair game and if you go to the restroom, expect your waffles to have been walked on by the time you get back. If they find no food, they’ll steal the sweetener packets off the tables undeterred by the upturned ashtrays in their way. If you were wondering, the yellow packets of Splenda are the unrivaled winners in the mynah bird taste test; we never saw any other color flying away despite the presence of sweetnlow and sugar packets. The birds did not bother me in the least (nor did the cats at dinner who shared my fish under the table), but some folks might be unnerved by all the nonhuman company in the buffet.

Lunches were held down by the pool bar… various salad things, hot items, plenty of guac and salsa and ice cream. Dinner buffet was quite varied every night as well. We chose the Mexican restaurant and steakhouse for our special dinners… both were excellent, but wear bug spray to the steakhouse as the fans aren’t adequate to blow the skeeters away. Overall I felt that the food was better than the price I paid would suggest, but not as good as Dreams across the channel (but not as expensive, either). I ate absolutely everything I wanted all the time and never had a moment’s bowel question (though it occurred to me this vacation that I eat a lot of cheese at every meal there off the buffet, so frankly it’s a wonder I could poo at all). I only drink bottled water, only rinse toothbrush in bottled water. I have been to Mexico 5 years in a row now and have NEVER had a single shaky poo… ..either I am Ironstomach or you folks who get sick are doing something wrong.

The grounds are lovely, there are flamingos and peacocks and iguanas and cats wandering about. The staff is wonderful and accommodating and kind. On the last day we rented a scooter and drove all around the island… .this was a GREAT choice. Got to spend a few hours in town with the cruise ship people (note to self; never take a cruise with those people) and drive around the windward side where we happened upon a little beach bar where SEA TURTLE babies were hatching at that very moment! There was a cop there making sure they all made it to the sea…he put one in my hand right out of the nest and I got to carry him down and release him into the ocean! What an amazing experience! The scooter ended up being about $60 for the whole day with insurance and all… ..totally worth it, but expensive in the long run because now I have to buy a scooter for myself because they’re so much fun.

Mostly we were there to dive… .after watching the onsite dive shop Dressel load 60 tanks onto one huge dive boat in the afternoon, we were more glad than ever that we had prebooked with BlueXTSea divers. If you want more info on them, PM me. I cannot recommend them highly enough…I will never dive with anyone else on Coz if I can help it.

We had no problems whatsoever with any aspect of our stay until the morning we were to leave and found a text message from a friend (phones didn’t work there at all, TMobile or AT&T, but text messages went through… .strange) who mentioned that our flight to Miami had been cancelled. After much fussing at the Olympus guy Valentin (who kept saying “tomorrow, tomorrow” like some Little Orpan Annie auditionee… as if Hurricane Ike was going to completely clear the Gulf in 1 freakin’ day), we got AA to reroute us to Dallas via a Cessna hop from Coz to Cancun (fun in a scary way).

So let’s sum up. I can compare this resort to mainland resorts I’ve been to. The food was a bit better than Barcelo, not as good as Dreams. The room was smaller than either. The hotel was smaller than either. The beach was not as nice as either. Staff is great everywhere. The scuba diving was WAY WAY WAY better here than anywhere else. So on the whole, what did I think? If I were coming on a dive vacation, I would happily stay here again. It’s farthest south on the island, closest to Palancar and Maricaibo reefs which are simply unparalleled anywhere I’ve seen. If I just wanted a beach vacation and were not a diver, I would probably not come to Cozumel at all, but stay anywhere on the mainland (Riviera Maya) where the beach is nicer and the hotels are fancier for the same or lower price (they have to be… the diving isn’t as good!).

Thanks for hanging in there through this review… .feel free to email me if you have specific questions!

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